Apple Targets Music Fans and Creative Pros at Their Latest Product Launch

It was a good day if you like spatial audio and MacBook Pros

October 18, 2021 3:49 pm
A new MacBook Pro, featuring a Liquid Retina XDR display, was announced on Tuesday
Apple introduced two updated MacBook Pros at their Tuesday product launch

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Can Apple capture your imagination even when they’re not launching a new iPhone?

That was the test for Tim Cook & co. during Apple’s second product launch in just over a month. Kicking off Tuesday’s “Unleashed” event via the high-energy beats of Orck’s “Gesaffelstein” — a track that I definitely had to Shazam — the Apple CEO had to get us excited about high-end laptops and spatial audio. 

Smartly, Cook led with music. Yes, we are getting new AirPods, updates on the HomePod Mini and a new Apple Music subscription plan. But the big reveal came with the introduction of the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips, which led into the announcement of completely updated and redesigned MacBook Pros.

The second half of the presentation got a bit bogged down with graphics performance charts, and having Cook himself speak from a sparse field behind Apple’s campus was, well, a choice. It’s certainly not a presentation that’s going to inspire an Aaron Sorkin screenplay

That said, while this wasn’t the most captivating way to showcase “new ways to express creativity,” as Cook mentioned early on, we have to admit: The specs on the new devices are really, really nice (and to give some props to the presentation, do watch the first five minutes, where a musician in a garage studio crafts a song based entirely on the sounds associated with various Apple devices throughout the last 35 years)

Below, a few takeaways from the music and Mac updates from Apple:

HomePod mini is now available in three bold new colors: orange, yellow, and blue, in addition to white and space gray.
The HomePod mini is now available in three new colors: orange, yellow and blue

Apple Music Sounds More Affordable, Looks More Colorful

The idea that there are 30,000+ playlists on Apple Music that Siri can summon isn’t that exciting, but that tidbit was used to highlight a new voice-only plan for Apple Music that’s only $4.99 per month and debuting later this fall (somewhat akin to something Amazon’s been doing for a while). You can pair that sound plan with some colorful new HomePod Minis, available next month in yellow, orange and blue. 

The third gen of AirPods, now with spatial audio, near an iPad and iPhone playing the Apple TV show "Foundation"
AirPods users now have Dolby Atmos in Apple Music and spatial audio with dynamic head tracking across devices.

AirPods Embrace Spatial Audio

The immersive, spatial audio of the AirPods Pro now arrives on the third-generation of the non-Pro earbuds — although the Pro’s noise cancellation features do not. These third-gen AirPods feature a new contoured design and shorter stem, as well as adaptive EQ (which tunes music to the shape of your ears) and MagSafe/wireless charging support. The 2nd gen ones will drop to $129, and the new AirPods, available for ordering today, are $179.

macBook Pro, now with tactile function buttons in lieu of the Touch Bar
The new MacBook Pro foregoes the Touch Bar for tactile keys

The MacBook Pro Is More Powerful Than Ever

The M1 Pro and M1 Max chips powering the new 14” and 16” MacBook Pros promise some big numbers: 13x faster graphics performance and 11x faster machine learning, yet somehow doing it with less energy and a longer battery life. How? The M1 Pro and M1 Max combine the CPU, GPU, I/O and Neural Engine in a single system on a chip (SoC) with unified memory, a first for a pro notebook. 

As for the laptops themselves? Function keys are back, replacing the Touch Bar, and ports make a big return (there are a total of six). Featuring a Liquid Retina XDR display, an improved built-in camera — and a menu bar pushed up around the camera’s notch — along with up to 10 hours more video playback time per charge, these laptops certainly have creative professionals in mind.

You can order these souped-up MacBooks now for delivery on Oct. 26, with prices starting at $1,999.

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